Yemen’s key port city of Hodeida was calm on Tuesday morning, hours after a UN-mediated cease-fire went into effect between government-allied forces and the country’s rebels, Yemeni officials said.
Fighting subsided as the cease-fire took effect, with only the sporadic sound of automatic weapons fire heard in the city, where the port handles about 70% of Yemen’s imports. Yemen’s four-year conflict pits the internationally recognized government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, against Shiite rebels known as Houthis.
The government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi called for its forces to “cease-fire in both Hodeida city and the province” also named Hodeida, according to a statement from Hadi’s Defence Ministry. The rebels also welcomed the cease-fire in the key port city.
The agreement came during UN-sponsored talks in Sweden last week. A joint committee led by UN officers will oversee the cease-fire and the redeployment of the warring parties’ forces out of Hodeida, which is currently controlled by the Houthis.
Local authorities and police will run the city and its three port facilities under UN supervision, and the two sides are barred from bringing in reinforcements.
UN envoy Martin Griffith has said the committee is expected to start its work swiftly “to translate the momentum built up in Sweden into achievements on the ground”.
The cease-fire is the first step in a process the UN hopes will lead to a province-wide truce in Hodeida and the demilitarisation of the Red Sea trade corridor, said Peter Salisbury, a consulting senior analyst on Yemen at the Brussels-based Crisis Group.
“But it’s important to note that the deal itself is quite specific in saying that this is not part of a wider peace process: It’s an agreement made for humanitarian rather than political reasons,” he said.
“Both the prisoner swap agreement and the Hodeida agreement have clear language saying they should not be seen as political agreements or precedent for further deals.”
Delegations from the government and the rebels said earlier this month in Sweden that they have exchanged prisoner lists. The lists will be reviewed over four weeks, ahead of a final swap to be facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross, they said.